The Heart of Courage

After yesterday, I was inspired to look up the etymology of the word courage. It stems from the latin “cor” which means heart. The word has been around since at least the 1300’s.

The heart/courage connection makes a lot of sense when you think about it. The two have been intertwined throughout history. We say, “She had the heart of a lion.” Being told you have a brave heart is a great compliment indeed. “Take heart, my friends,” means have courage in the face of adversity. Follow your heart.

The reason I am thinking of this right now is that it took great courage, yesterday, for all those representatives to vote to impeach Trump after having been locked in rooms for hours, clutching gas masks, while a mob was trying to get to them, many of whom talked of lynching and other forms of assassination. They could hear the guards screaming in pain as they were attacked. They could hear glass breaking and doors breaking and gun shots.

I would have been terrified. Americans usually don’t experience threats to their lives in their homeland, especially as perpetuated by fellow Americans. (Well, unless you count those who are forced to walk among fools who refuse to wear masks in public in the midst of a pandemic.)

When the congressmen emerged, it was to see destruction and theft and death and hate symbols and defecation. It was to see that one of the most honored buildings in this country had been trashed. It was to learn that they weren’t adequately protected, and things could have ended even more horrifically than they did. Whether they realize it or not, I’m sure that the entire congress now has PTSD, and that’s going to back up on them sooner or later.

And yet, those representatives showed up yesterday, to the very room that they had to be rushed out of during the insurrection. They impeached Trump. That took guts for miles.

Yeah, nothing will probably come of it. The senate isn’t cooperating, and there’s not much time left (thank God). But the importance of recording, for all the generations to come, that insurrection is outrageous and unconscionable, made them act, despite knowing that there are people out there who will surely want them to die for it. It took a great deal of courage, indeed.

I particularly admire the 10 republicans who chose to do the right thing. Not only are they risking their lives but also their livelihood. They will be the focus of hate for acting based on facts and their personal integrity, even if it meant they were forced to go against the majority of their peers. It takes a lot to speak truth to power. What heart! What courage!

I couldn’t be more impressed if I were twins. Even though we’ve seen the worst of America during that riot, perhaps there is hope for us yet. I’m heartened by that. Very heartened, indeed.

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The Headington Shark

I was cleaning out the bookmarks on my browser (sort of) when I came across an article from April of 2019 entitled, “’It went in beautifully as the postman was passing’: the story of the Headington Shark.

Honestly, I have no idea how I let this one slip through the cracks. I love public art, and I love, even more, people who zig when everyone else is zagging. This was a story that screamed out to be blogged about.

It appears that much of the neighborhood of Headington, in Oxford, U.K. is a place where all the townhouses look alike. I personally couldn’t live in an area like that. It would drive me nuts. And apparently the late Bill Heine, a writer and broadcaster and former student at Oxford, felt the same way.

Heine, the owner of the townhouse, commissioned his friend, John Buckley, a sculptor, to do something to liven the place up. He proceeded to install a 25 foot long shark on the roof, which looks as though it fell from a great height. That seems rather random.

The simple answer is that Heine really liked sharks, but he also wanted to make a statement about war, and about feeling helpless when unexpected things drop from the sky. According to Wikipedia, the work was unveiled on August 9, 1986, which was the 41st anniversary of America dropping a nuclear bomb on Nagasaki.

I think it’s a delight, and apparently I’m not alone. Tourists flock to the shark to this day. But the Oxford City Council was not nearly as amused. They tried to get it removed for reasons of safety, but upon professional inspection, the shark, which weighs about 440 pounds, is structurally sound. The federal government then got involved, and there were some public hearings, in which it was made quite clear that the shark had become a beloved resident of the community, where it still resides to this day.

Heine died in 2019 at the age of 74, and by that point his son had already bought the place to keep the shark safe. He now operates it as an AirBnB. Naturally I had to pop over to the website and check it out. It sleeps 12. It’s a beautiful place, not far from the city center. I was disappointed that the shark’s head doesn’t emerge from the ceiling of one of the rooms, but I suppose it would be rather hard to get a good night’s sleep under those circumstances. The place costs about 220 pounds a night to reserve, with a 3 night minimum, but it would definitely be a fun travel memory.

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A Letter to Congress

In light of recent events, I felt the need to reach out to my congressmen. In my case, these are Representative Adam Smith, Senator Patty Murray, and Senator Maria Cantwell. If you agree with my statement below, feel free to send it to your congressmen as well, either by letter or by e-mailing them a link to this post, as long as you give me original credit for the idea.

“First of all, thank you and all your colleagues for being public servants in these trying times. Your service should never put your life at risk. The insurrection in our nation’s capitol was unconscionable and should never be repeated.

“In light of that, I humbly request that the first paragraph of the preamble of the Democratic Platform should be changed. This paragraph should reflect a moral compass that all rational human beings can agree upon. This or a similar paragraph should always be included in every party’s platform.

“My suggestion is as follows:

“’As Democrats, we believe in the rule of law and the constitution. We believe that violence and terrorism are unacceptable, and that our democratic process should be inviolate. Anyone who disagrees with any of these tenets does not, and never will, speak for the Democratic Party.’

“I hope you’ll consider putting forward this suggestion, and as a fellow Democrat, I would encourage you to suggest that this should be made the first paragraph of the Republican platform, and indeed, any other party’s platform, as well. (If every party made this change at the same time, it would show unity and strength, and no one would have to feel that he or she is copying a political opponent.) It is high time we disavow the lunatic fringe. They do not deserve our endorsement in any way, shape or form.

“Thank you for your consideration, and, again, thank you for your service.”

Sincerely,

Barbara Abelhauser

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A Unique Opportunity to Cut Off Our Lunatic Fringe

I know you’ll find this hard to believe, but I genuinely believe that not all Republicans are bad. But if we have learned nothing else from the insurrection in the Capitol a few days ago, there are definitely some on the absolute lunatic fringe (as are some democrats, of course). Most of us watched their actions in utter horror. I genuinely believe that includes the average Republican, too.

There are many things most humans can agree on. Violence is unacceptable. Our democratic process should be inviolate. We need to protect our planet as it’s the only home we have. Basic human rights should apply to everyone. We need to improve our healthcare system and our schools. Murder is unacceptable, as is rape, sex trafficking, and theft. We need more invention and innovation. Hate gets us nowhere. Facts are facts.

I think both parties should add the above, with mutually agreed upon wording, to our national platforms. We should rename ourselves the Rational Republican Party and the Rational Democratic Party. If our members can’t agree with all of the above, then they should not be considered part of our membership. They should be rejected outright. “Your hate and violence are not who we are. You do not speak for us.” Let them form their own insane little cohorts and self-destruct.

Each party, of course, still has room for a lot of planks in their platform that the other party may disagree with, and that’s okay. But we have got to agree that we can no longer turn our backs on basic human morality. The lunatic fringe does not deserve our support.

I think if we did that, we might discover that we all agree on much more than we think.

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Living through History

We lived through history yesterday, and it was for the most part shameful. If you think killing a woman in the Capitol Building is acceptable or, worse yet, heroic, if you can say you love people who would do such a thing, if you call people who mounted an insurrection “true patriots”, then you are a moral reprobate.

A woman died. And she was a Trump supporter to boot. At what point do you admit that things have gotten out of control? At what point do you say enough is enough?

Our transitions of power have always been peaceful until now, even when the results stuck in the craw of the majority. Are you proud of yourselves? Do you have any idea what you’ve done to democracy?

The only reason I said “for the most part shameful” up above is that Georgia, a state I’d long since given up on, just managed to elect their first black senator ever, and also the youngest senator. That’s history, too. I wish that was what I could focus on, because it’s miraculous. But no. Shame on the insurrectionists.

Oh, and then, on top of everything else, protestors blocked my bridge for 15 minutes yesterday, too. 6 cars, blocking every lane of traffic, completely strangling the Seattle evening commute. I have no idea what they were protesting, and frankly, I don’t care. It accomplished nothing but ill will. It didn’t further anyone’s agenda. It was just negative energy. And it stressed me out and caused paperwork.

So, yeah, weird day at best.

I’ll leave you with this wisdom from a meme, in the hopes that it will cause you to untangle some pretzel logic if you happen to be experiencing it:

“You might be in a cult if you believe that:

You can’t trust the votes.

You can’t trust paper ballots.

You can’t trust judges at the polling places.

You can’t trust polling observers.

You can’t trust voting machines.

You can’t trust state canvassing committees.

You can’t trust state recounts.

You can’t trust 50 Secretaries of State.

You can’t trust the National administrator for election security.

You can’t trust Trump’s Attorney General.

You can’t trust Trump’s FBI.

You can’t trust the states circuit court judges.

You can’t trust US district court judges, including Trump appointees.

You can’t trust US Supreme Court judges, including Trump’s appointees.

You can’t trust the last ten Secretaries of Defense.

BUT you can trust Donald Trump.”

How Great Ideas Grow

I bet it started when a garbage collector saw a book that was in great shape and was destined for the landfill. “I’ll just take this home and read it,” he probably thought. And just like that, something that was designated as garbage was rescued from that undignified fate.

It could have ended there, but it didn’t. A few garbage collectors, in Ankara, Turkey, decided they’d make a little library of their rescued books, for use by employees and their families. This little library would double as a break room. A simple, yet elegant solution for book lovers, as well as for books not ready to die.

But then word got out, and people started donating their unwanted books. The garbage collectors now house the library/break room in a former brick factory. It has 25,000 books. And now it’s open to the public.

It could have ended there, too, but it didn’t. According to this article, “Workers have converted a garbage truck into a small mobile library to bring books they collected to nearby schools and other district libraries.”

Now, isn’t that brilliant? Literacy takes flight. Tons of books are rescued from the landfill. The community has another resource. And it all started with one book and one garbage collector.

It may just be a little free library that got out of control, but its impact is immeasurable to the people of that community. This makes me very, very happy.

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It Doesn’t Take Much to Feel Fulfilled

I once told someone who seemed to be very unhappy that she needed to get something that was “just for her.” She thought I was telling her to get a job which she didn’t financially need, or that she should buy something. She felt resentful that I didn’t think the money earned by her partner was also hers.

When I realized the confusion, I rushed to clarify. I wasn’t referring to money. Who cares about money, as long as you have food, clothing, and shelter? Money really doesn’t bring you happiness. I know a lot of very unhappy rich people.

No, I was referring to having something that she could do to bring her fulfillment. Something she could take pride in. Something that would give her satisfaction. It doesn’t have to do with money or things, necessarily. It just should be something that was hers.

And it turns out, according to this article, that work is strongly linked with mental health, but I would define work a little more broadly than this author does. I’d include volunteering as work. I’d also include having a project that matters to you.

Most of us in America work 40 hours a week. That is thanks to unions. Before that, many people were forced to work nearly every waking moment of their lives. Needless to say, this led to burnout and did not provide any sort of life satisfaction.

While I’m grateful for unions for some employment respite, I have no idea how they arrived at that particular number of hours per week. But because of that, we’ve kind of gotten into the habit of thinking that anything less than that is not a “real” job. That, to me, is a shame.

According to this article, there is a premise that as technology increases, there will be fewer work opportunities for the average person. Therefore, a study was conducted to determine what the minimum amount of hours should be per week in order to get the mental health boost one receives from working. This boost comes in the form of emotional fulfillment, a routine, social interaction, shared goals, variety, and identity.

The fascinating conclusion that the researchers reached was that we only really need to work 8 hours a week for mental health. From 9 hours to 48, the emotional boost doesn’t increase, nor does it decrease. After 48 hours, mental health drops off precipitously, as it does for those who do no work at all by my definition.

So, yeah, I could see myself working 8 hours a week. Of course I’d need some sort of basic income to supplement that, but as we begin to realize that capitalism isn’t the perfect philosophy it has been trumped up to be, we’re considering basic income as a possible solution, too. Sign me up!

Whatever plans the world implements, I strongly suspect that I wouldn’t recognize the society we create 50 years from now. And that excites me, even though I won’t be around to experience it. I genuinely do not believe that humans were put on this earth to be cogs in an industrial wheel, and I foresee creativity and art and imagination blooming when we’re given time to stretch those wings.

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A Pig’s Head? Seriously?

If you’re the one person who hasn’t heard of this by now, two days ago some sick individuals vandalized the home of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. They painted graffiti all over her garage door. “$2K” with a line through it, referring to the stimulus check debacle (as if that were her fault rather than Mitch McConnell’s). “Cancel Rent”. Anarchist symbols. “We want everything”.

This, in and of itself, is outrageous. But the fact that there was fake blood, along with, I kid you not, a pig’s head on the public sidewalk, really puts it over the top. This is straight up insane. What if a child had come across that? Fortunately, the head was removed by 3 a.m., so the odds of some kid being traumatized for life are slim. But that was pure luck.

Things are really getting out of hand. And I’m not just saying that because I’m a democrat and she’s a democrat. I’d say that regardless of the public servant who was targeted.

Public service has become a bit of a full contact sport these days. The mayor of Seattle isn’t running for reelection because of the people who are constantly milling about her private residence, chanting. Her family hasn’t been able to live a normal life since she took office.

And make no mistake, these types of behavior are acts of violence. They say, “I’m willing to destroy your life as well as your property.” And if you’re capable of chopping off a pig’s head to make a point, how much farther would you be willing to go? I mean, it takes some effort to gain access to a pig’s head in metropolitan San Francisco. They’d have had to drive quite a distance with that thing in their vehicle. Plenty of time to think about what you’re about to do. And yet, at the end of the journey, they still seem to have thought this was a good idea.

Who does that? What kind of psychopath does that? How angry and stupid do you have to be? This message says a lot more about you than it ever will about your victim.

A really terrifying thing is that I came across one article that published Pelosi’s address. Online. You can’t unring that bell. It’s out there now. How must that feel?

What did these people think they were going to achieve? Is Ms. Pelosi capable of issuing the $2K checks that so many people desperately need? Obviously not, because she was in favor of it, and it’s not going to come to pass. The Republicans rejected the plan twice, even though Trump is also in favor of it. Can she cancel rent? No. Can she give whomever this is the “everything” they feel they so richly deserve? Stupid.

And these people, whomever they may be, are now walking through life knowing that they did this thing. I’m sure they feel justified in their own minds, or they wouldn’t have done it in the first place. But that rot, that poison, will forever be inside of them. As long as they live, deep down, they will forever be people who left a pig’s head on a public sidewalk. That is who they are. I’m sure they’ll never admit that domestic terrorism to anyone, even a prospective partner. And that secret will add to the rot. Well done, you buffoons.

We need the best of the best to run for public office if we want the best democratic results. If this is the type of thing that one can expect for making this sacrifice, do you really think the best people won’t think twice about stepping forward? It’s hard enough, being under constant scrutiny, without having to worry about pig’s heads. This act was a violation of Pelosi, but it was also a blow to democracy itself.

Disgusting. This behavior just reinforces my belief that some humans are really lower life forms and have a long way to go to earn the designation “civilized”. We forget that we, too, are animals, and unfortunately not all of us are domesticated. And this belief of mine has nothing to do with race, creed, politics, economic status, origin, or education level. It’s based purely on the choices you make and the actions you take. By those will you be judged.

To the vandals: If your mother would be proud of this, then clearly the f***ed up apple hasn’t fallen too far from the twisted tree.

End of rant.

Debunking Chemtrails

Let’s round out the year with some facts, shall we? Chemtrails are a myth. There is no credible evidence to support their existence.

I suspect that if you’ve read past that first paragraph, I’m probably already preaching to the choir. That’s a pity. It’s nearly impossible to disabuse a conspiracy theorist of their erroneous conclusions. The only reason I’m even giving it a try is that I still see this subject come up time and time again on social media, from sources that I think are way too smart for this foolishness, and I’m hoping that if you know someone who seems to be on the fence about the issue, you may be able to use this post to draw that person away from the lunatic fringe.

According to this article in the Smithsonian, based on public policy polling, “…about five percent of Americans believe in chemtrails. That’s more than the four percent who believe lizard people are taking over our politics but much less than the number who believe in bigfoot or that global warming is a hoax.”

Give me strength.

Okay, let’s start with the basics.

You’re not being conned. We call them contrails because that’s short for condensation trails. You’re familiar with condensation. You’ve seen it gathering on the outside of a cold glass of lemonade on a hot day. It’s why you use coasters. You’ve seen it dripping out of your old air conditioning window unit when you were trying to beat the heat. Condensation requires three things to exist: warmth, cold, and moisture.

Jet engines provide the warm water vapor by way of their exhaust or by way of a sudden change in pressure when air flows over the wings. (However, wingtips require an assist in the form of high humidity in the air.) This moisture hits the cold air that the high atmosphere provides and that causes this water vapor to cool and condense. Ta da! Condensation! (This article explains it in more detail, but it’s really just that simple. I promise.)

And here are some FAQs for you:

Why do we seem to be seeing more trails in the sky? Because contrails are produced by planes, and we have increased the number of flights for travel and shipping over time.

Why do they seem so bright? Because sunlight reflects off the ice crystals, just as it does on sparkly snow. You’ve seen sparkly snow.

Why do these trails seem to last longer than they used to? Because a) you’re paying more attention to them, b) there have been changes in jet engine technology and c) (please don’t kill the messenger) global warming may cause the trails to linger longer.

Why do they often make big exes in the sky? Because planes fly in different directions and are at different altitudes. It may look like the cross is located right over your house from your angle, but I guarantee you that one leg of the x is at a much higher altitude than the other, so someone on the other side of the county, seeing it from another angle, is probably thinking that the x is over his or her house, too. (You get an x, you get an x, EVERYBODY GETS AN X!!!!!!!!!!)

Okay, then, why have theorists found traces of barium, aluminum, copper and strontium in ponds, snow, and air? Because we have polluted the freakin’ planet. All of us. Perhaps you’d be better off focusing on our need for green energy.

Why do some of these trails have multiple bands? Because some planes have multiple engines. And all have multiple wing tips. (Yes, condensation can come off of wing tips, too. With help. See above.)

Why can’t I believe that these trails are a government conspiracy to control the weather, the population, or to test biological weapons? Well, you can, if you insist. But…

  • If the government is trying to control the weather, they’re doing a horrible job of it. I’d like to send some of the Pacific Northwest rain down to California where it’s so desperately needed, please.
  • If they’re trying to control the population, again, they’re doing a horrible job of it.
  • Due to ever-changing wind currents, they couldn’t specify the exact population they would be controlling from that altitude. People in the government have families, too, and they don’t want them to be messed with. They may not want you to have grandchildren, but they want some of their own.
  • If there is some type of aerosol birth control out there, especially one that would provide the exact proper dose to everyone with whom it comes in contact, I wish to hell someone had told me about it before I got my tubes tied.
  • Perhaps most glaringly obvious is the fact that it would be idiotic to test biological weapons on your own populous, because the whole point of producing something to use to wipe out your enemies is to wind up with more of your friends when all is said and done. So by that way of thinking, it would have to be a foreign government doing these tests.
  • Every country heavily monitors their own air space, so it would be awfully hard for another country to drop chemical weapons on us, all over the country, on a daily basis, without our being extremely aware of it. We knew the exact location of sputnik, for crying out loud. And in the case of a daily invasion of that magnitude, our government would be pissed. There would be tweets, believe you me.
  • How could our own government produce daily chemtrails all over the country when it can’t even work out an efficient way to provide us with sufficient vaccines to get this pandemic under control? To believe that the government is using chemtrails, you have to have a heck of a lot more confidence in their organizational, logistical, and secret-keeping abilities than I do.

Okay. That’s it. I’m done. I tried. Now it’s up to you to think critically.

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Alcohol Stunts Your Emotional Growth

I’ve made it no secret in this blog that I Hate Alcohol. There are so many reasons for that that you’ll have to read the original blog post to find out why. I haven’t had a drink in 35 years and I can’t imagine a scenario in which I’d intentionally do so. Think of all the time and money I’ve saved, the feelings I’ve spared, and the health I’ve maintained.

Having said that, I’m not some prohibitionist. If you can drink in moderation, or only occasionally, and definitely NOT while driving, then cheers to you. I don’t care if you drink in my presence, as long as you don’t make an a$$ out of yourself. But if you know someone who is an alcoholic, whether they’ve admitted it to themselves or not, then this blog post is for you.

I’m writing this post now as New Year’s Eve is coming up, and most alcoholics will use that as handy excuse to get totally wasted. This will look even more pathetic in a pandemic year, because they will most likely do this all alone, with no fellow drinkers to cheer them on. If you’re sitting by yourself in an empty house or apartment, drinking away, then you have a problem. There’s no shame in seeking help.

But I’m going to hit you today with an observation. I’ve never known an alcoholic whose emotional growth wasn’t stunted in one way or another. I’ve been screamed at by alcoholics. I’ve seen them get violent. They throw tantrums. They take no responsibility for their actions or behavior. They are selfish. They are unreliable. They are impulsive and make very bad choices.

These are the traits of very immature adolescents.

Most people drink because they can’t cope with life. Effectively, they go away. And while they are “away”, they are not maturing as their peers are. They are not learning important life lessons because they aren’t truly living. They’re not developing people skills. They are so busy being pickled by alcohol, freezing themselves in time, that they don’t learn as much compassion as you or I do.

Alcoholics make horrible friends and spouses and parents. They will hurt you and they won’t care. If there’s any sign that you are outgrowing them, they will hurl abuse on you as you head out the door. Since their growth has been stunted, they cannot stand seeing growth in you. They will do whatever they can to hold you back.

It’s important to remember that none of this is your fault. It’s important to remember that you have a right to move on. Your alcoholic’s stunted growth doesn’t have to stunt your own.

Happy New Year. May the coming year bring you fresh insight and, if needed, a brand new start.

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